‘In the Pink of Health’: Definition, Meaning, and Examples

By Sophia Merton, updated on November 10, 2022

Are you wondering what it means when someone says ‘in the pink of health’? What about when somebody describes a person, object, company, stock, or industry as ‘in the pink’?

‘In the pink of health’ is an idiom that means ‘very healthy’ or ‘in excellent condition.’

What Does ‘In the Pink of Health’ Mean?

The idiom ‘in the pink of health’ means ‘in excellent condition’ and ‘very healthy.’

This is an informal expression that can be used to refer to a person or a thing that is in an optimal state. It is often shortened to ‘in the pink.’

When someone says something is ‘in the pink’ or ‘in the pink of health,’ they are conveying that there is good reason to be optimistic or indicating a positive outlook. It can be used in a number of different contexts, including in relation to:

  • A person’s health
  • The condition of an object
  • Financial or economic situations

If you are coming across the phrase ‘in the pink’ in a conversation that has to do with finances or the economy, the implication is that whatever is being discussed is in a good position. Someone might say that a specific investor has been receiving an excellent return on his investments as ‘in the pink,’ or they might refer to a robust national economy as ‘in the pink.’

Similarly, when a stock is showing positive growth and trending upward, financial experts and analysts might refer to them as ‘in the pink.’

As you can see, this is a phrase that is quite versatile in its ability to describe something that is in the peak of health or condition. For example, you could say that a herd of sheep is ‘in the pink of health,’ you could say that your car is ‘in the pink,’ or you could say that the entire national economy of a nation is ‘in the pink of health.’

The Origin of ‘In the Pink of Health’

Sometimes the origin of a phrase is very cut and dry, but understanding the etymology of this idiom is quite complex.

There are a number of different theories out there about where the idiom ‘in the pink of health’ comes from. Let’s take a look at some of the various ideas floating around about the origin of this phrase.

Theory #1: The Color of a Healthy Person’s Cheeks

Some people speculate that the phrase originally emerged in relation to the notion that the color pink is a symbol of health. This is because healthy people often have a rosy, pink color to their cheeks, while someone unwell might look pale or drained of color.

The use of this idiom might date back as far as the 16th century. Interestingly, the use of the noun ‘pink’ to refer to a pale red color isn’t recorded until as late as 1733, while the phrase ‘pink-colored’ is recorded from the 1680s. The use of the word as an adjective is attested by 1720.

Before its use as a word referring to a color, the word ‘pink’ was the common name of a specific garden plant Dianthus beginning at least in the 1570s. It is unclear why ‘pink’ was the chosen name of the plant, but it is thought it might be related to the scalloped petals or the small dots that resemble eyes on the plant.

Theory #2: The Color of Fox Hunter’s Jackets

Another theory is that the phrase ‘in the pink’ is associated with the color of the jackets worn by fox hunters in the UK.

The idea behind this notion is that the scarlet jackets worn by fox hunters were referred to as the sportsmen’s ‘hunting pink’ because of Thomas Pink, a tailor. The theory is that the idiom ‘in the pink’ has to do with both the jackets worn by these hunters and the energetic and healthy way they would approach the sport.

Though this is an interesting theory, it is not one that is founded on much actual evidence.

Theory #3: ‘Pink’ Meant ‘Pinnacle’ Before It Referred to a Rosy Color

Another source says that the notion that ‘in the pink’ comes from the glowing cheeks of healthy people is misguided, as saying that something was ‘in the pink’ in the 16th century referred to ‘the very pinnacle of something’ but wasn’t specifically limited to a person’s health.

This is evidenced by a line from Shakespeare's famous play Romeo and Juliet, where Mercurio says:

“Why, I am the very pinke of curtesie.”

(Why, I am the very pink of courtesy.)

In the 1719 play by John Leigh called Kensington Gardens, a character says:

"'Tis the Pink of the Mode, to marry at first Sight: - And some, indeed, marry without any Sight at all."

“The pink of mode,” here, means that it is the pinnacle of the current fashion. This phrase continued to be used commonly throughout the 1800s.

You can see how it is perhaps misguided to think that ‘in the pink’ was historically in relation to a person’s appearance when they are healthy when you see how Charles Dickens used the phrase in 1845:

"Of all the picturesque abominations in the World, commend me to Fondi. It is the very pink of hideousness and squalid misery."

As you can see, this usage implies something that is ‘the very pinnacle of something’ rather than ‘very healthy’ or ‘in excellent condition.’

The Current Use of ‘In the Pink’

The way that we use the phrase today doesn’t appear in written form until about the 20th century.

In the 1905 Kynoch Journal, ‘in the pink’ is used to imply something in very good condition:

"Makers may despatch explosives from the factory in the pink of condition."

One of the most compelling arguments for the origin of ‘in the pink’ has to do with the previously mentioned Dianthus flower. ‘Pinks’ is the common name for many of the varieties of this flower, and it is known that the flowers were much admired by society during the reign of Elizabeth I. In this way, it makes sense that the phrase ‘in the pink’ was first used in this period to refer to something exhibiting excellence.

Using ‘In the Pink of Health’ In a Sentence

Now that we’ve thoroughly examined the meaning and history of the idiom ‘in the pink’ or ‘in the pink of health,’ let’s take a look at how you can use it in a sentence.

  • I was bed bound for weeks, but now I’m in the pink of health.
  • I don’t want to be the bearer of bad news, but your statement that the factory is in the pink is sorely misguided.
  • After years of struggle, Carlos was glad to report that his restaurant was in the pink.
  • The veterinarian visited the zoo last weekend and reported that all of the hippos are in the pink of health.
  • Many of the community members were furious when they heard the mayor say the city was in the pink of health, as they felt there were many serious problems that needed to be addressed.
  • On Friday, everyone was saying this stock was in the pink, but now their tone has shifted dramatically.
  • It has been a long road of doctor’s appointments and treatments, but moving forward, we expect her to be in the pink of health in no time.

English idioms and phrases are a great way to diversify your vocabulary, whether you are a native speaker or learning English as your second or third language. Though they can be a bit confusing at first, you’ll find that incorporating idioms can help to enrich your writing and speaking and add more depth to all of your communications!

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Written By:
Sophia Merton
Sophia Merton is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. Sophia received her BA from Vassar College. She is passionate about reading, writing, and the written word. Her goal is to help everyone, whether native English speaker or not, learn how to write and speak with perfect English.

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